On Monday, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced his Agricultural Guestworker Act of 2017 Bill, which would replace H-2A with an H-2C program. Rep. Goodlatte introduced the bill to the House Judiciary Committee, which he chairs.
During his address at United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Conference in mid September, Rep. Goodlatte said he intends to move the bill through on a tight timetable. And that is exactly what he is doing. Rep. Goodlatte introduced the bill Monday night during a dinner with President Trump, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn and other key Republicans, according to New Food Economy.
The committee vote was originally scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 4, a mere day after most committee members had a chance to review the 49-page document. But the vote has been postponed, according the Judiary Committee page. At press time, the vote had not yet been rescheduled. Initial revisions to the bill has been posted, however, and as the bill moves forward, more may be added.
In 2013, when Goodlatte introduced the same bill, it passed out of committee, but was never taken up on the House floor.
American Vegetable Grower® will update this story after the vote.
Agricultural Guestworker Act of 2017 would pool all agricultural guestworkers into one program, and broaden it to include some year-round farms, such as dairy and fisheries, which currently do not qualify for H-2A. It would also allow for both contract and at-will employment, giving more flexibility to move workers from farm to farm, as needed. Another major change would be to move the program from the Department of Labor to USDA.
Who’s For and Against the Bill
Several groups have come out in support of the bill, most from the agricultural community. Supportive groups include American Farm Bureau Federation, and National Milk Producers Federation, Bloomberg BNA reports. Agriculture Workforce Coalition has also issued a statement of support, KTIC radio reports.
American Farm Bureau Federation, however, is concerned about the 500,000 cap provided for in the bill, fearing it will be inadequate for the demand.
Farm worker unions have come out against the bill, including United Farm Workers, the National Guestworker Alliance, and several other organizations. A common fear among these groups is that the bill would undermine fair labor practices and drive down wages for all farm workers.